Culturally speaking, October ;is often among the busiest months in Orlando. Last weekend I sampled the abundant arts buffet to bring you a tasting menu of brief bites from around town.


Third Thursday


I've been too tied up the last couple of months to take full advantage of the most consistently creative evening on our monthly calendar. So I'm grateful I grabbed a couple of hours to cruise through the downtown galleries on Oct. 16 – and the gorgeous fall weather didn't hurt. First up was a fantastic exhibit of puppet creations in the Gallery at Avalon Island. Puppets and Steel (through Nov. 14) combines metal sculptures by Pierre Haskelson with crafted creatures connected to IBEX's upcoming Orlando Puppet Festival (Nov. 7-9). Some of my favorites included a doggie diorama by Carl Knickerbocker, a happy hamburger by David "Wavy Davy" Jordan and the dress by Kelledy Francis with puppets peeking out of the pockets. The highlight of the evening for me was the City of Orlando Puppetroupe's presentation; I've seen their sublime shadow-puppet interpretations several times, but never before from the unique behind-the-scenes vantage granted by Avalon's front window.


A couple of blocks away on Orange Avenue, Orange County director of Arts and Cultural Affairs Terry Olson was welcoming visitors to Love Works, the latest installation at CityArts Factory (through Nov 14). Some of the pieces in this spiritually inspired, eclectic collection weave in scripture in subtle ways; others, like Kyle's found object–covered crucifixes (toy soldiers, wax fruit) are more obvious. I stopped for a moment to listen to some moody blues by Holly Hansen (of the Minneapolis trio Zoo Animal), then headed up to Legacy, featuring works by art teachers alongside those of students they inspired. On my way out, I stopped in Roho, the new Cuban art and coffee joint that looked to be doing brisk business. The only thing harshing my CityArts buzz was navigating past the gigantic Guitartown guitars erected outside; if this "art" project's originators intended to make me nostalgic for the comparatively comely LizArt statues, they achieved their goal.


But what you really want to know is "How were the nibbles?" Avalon scored with gone-too-quick chicken skewers, hummus wraps and a honey lager that was disarmingly drinkable for an Anheuser-Busch product. And Love Works paired a lovely mulled cider with mini-pumpkin pies. But the win goes to the chocolate fountain in CityArts Factory's second-floor EC Gallery. Sure, we free-fondued ourselves into feeling ill … but oh, was it worth it.


A Streetcar Named Desire


Following my art and hors d'oeuvres appreciation, I swung down Colonial Drive to check out the Greater Orlando Actors Theatre's production of A Streetcar Named Desire in their new home next to the Cruises Only building. My feelings are filtered through the numerous Streetcars I've seen and worked on (the most memorable one starring the fabulous local Don Fowler), and I'm friends with nearly half of GOAT's cast, so don't read the following paragraphs as a formal review.


The troupe's new black-box theater, carved from the former Cameo Theatre, is still raw; the exposed bricks mesh well with Tom Mangieri's sumptuously seedy set, but support poles skewer sightlines. Director Paul Castaneda has aimed for a more "brutal" interpretation of Tennessee Williams' warhorse, resulting in muscular stage violence and more explicit (though still fully clothed) sex scenes. As the boozy Blanche DuBois, Leesa Halstead makes the moldering magnolia's manic-depression powerfully plausible. Her dissolution is so dramatic that she very nearly overshadows her antagonist; Daniel Cooksley's innate intelligence and sensitivity keeps poking through, deflating Stanley Kowalski's primatelike primitiveness.


The secondary stars are superb: Roger Greco finds both the funny and the fury in milquetoast Mitch, and Sarah Jane Fridlich makes simple, sensual Stella unusually sympathetic. I appreciated small touches like the torch songs sung during intermission by supporting players (Kevin Sigman, Kimberly Luffman). Despite slight stumbles (laconic scene changes, dodgy sound effects, rushed monologues), I was pleasantly engaged with a show that I normally find fatiguingly overfamiliar. (Final performances 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; $18; 407-872-8451;


Wizard of Oz


Readers who told me to take a flying leap will finally get their wish. A touring stage production of The Wizard of Oz, based only on the beloved MGM movie musical, landed in town Tuesday, Oct. 21. In what may go down among the all-time bad moves in Orlando Weekly culture-coverage history, yours truly is to be strapped into a harness and sent soaring above the Bob Carr stage just for promotional fun. If I survive my flying-monkey impression, check this weekend for the full report on Bloggytown. (The Wizard of Oz, through Oct. 26 at Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre; $35-$64; 407-839-3900;


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